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Division leaders clash as Silvertips, Rockets meet on WHL in 30

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It doesn’t get much bigger than this.

Between the ever-competitive U.S. and B.C. Divisions, the Everett Silvertips and Kelowna Rockets have respectively proven themselves to be the best of the bunch.

Both enter the first game of a home-and-home series with the Silvertips leading their division by four points over the Portland Winterhawks while the Rockets sit three points ahead of the second place Victoria Royals.

In fact, the matchup could prove to be a preview of the Western Conference final, with both teams experiencing real aspirations towards being a contender for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

This match marks the second of four meetings between the two clubs, but the Silvertips are a vastly different club than they were back in September with the additions of players like Garrett Pilon (Washington Capitals) and Ondrej Vala (Dallas Stars) among others

Stat Attack

-When it comes to matchups, things couldn’t get any better. The Silvertips possess the best defence in the league with 130 goals allowed, the fewest amount in the league.

-Friday’s game will boast three members of Canada gold medal squad from the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship with goaltender Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers) suiting up for the Silvertips and Dillon Dube (Calgary Flames) and Cal Foote (Tampa Bay Lightning) on the other side for the Rockets.

-Plenty of history is on the line for both clubs in this week’s matchup. For the Silvertips, Hart is one clean shot away from equalling Tyson Sexsmith’s all-time shutout record of 26. He leads the WHL with six shutouts this season and seems very intent on becoming the first goaltender in Western Hockey League history to win the Del Wilson Trophy three years in a row as the league’s top goaltender. He also leads the league with a 1.52 goals-against average and .953 save percentage.

Overage forward Patrick Bajkov is also one point away from setting a Silvertips’ franchise record as the all-time leading scorer. His 262 is tied with Silvertips alumni Zach Hamill and one has to figure it’s a matter of when, not if, Bajkov breaks the record.

-For the Rockets, leading scorer Kole Lind (Vancouver Canucks) is one point shy of 200 for his WHL career and teammate Dube is three away from reaching 200 points himself.

-Saturday’s WHL in 30 showcase will not only feature eight players drafted or signed by National Hockey League clubs, but will also showcase four players given attention on NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings. For the Silvertips, there’s forward Riley Sutter, ranked 72nd among North American skaters. Also listed is Silvertips’ defenceman Wyatte Wylie, coming in at 184th.

For the Rockets, they have forward Kyle Topping, the 64th ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting, and defenceman Libor Zabransky, coming in at 110, make up the Rockets’ contingent on the list. The Rockets are one of the pinnacles for developing NHL talent, having had a player selected in the first round of each of the last three drafts, with current captain Cal Foote (Tampa Bay Lightning) being the highest of the three at 14th overall.

-A pair of monthly award winners will be suiting up for the Everett Silvertips in Friday’s contest. Forward Matt Fonteyne was named the WHL Player of the Month after recording 25 points (12G-13A) in 13 games. Hart was recognized as the Vaughn WHL Goaltender of the Month for January.

-The Silvertips were active at the WHL’s Trade Deadline and picked up a pair of solid pieces in forward Garrett Pilon (Washington Capitals) and defenceman Ondrej Vala (Dallas Stars). In Pilon’s first 10 games with Everett, he has 13 points (5G-8A) to compliment an offensively-laden Silvertips roster.

-Brodan Salmond’s season was interrupted by a knee injury in November, but he was solid in his return in January. Besides a tough outing in Seattle, Salmond posted a .919 save percentage in his three victories, beating the Central Division-leading Medicine Hat Tigers twice. How the 1998-born goaltender performs down the stretch could dramatically impact the Rockets’ chances going forward, but he’s a capable hand to have as the last line of defence when needed.

Season Series
Sept. 29 – EVT 4 KEL 3 (SO)
Feb. 2 – EVT at KEL
Feb. 3 – KEL at EVT
Mar. 2 – KEL at EVT

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